A group of lesbian women in a bar

Where Did Lesbian Bars Go?

This week, Bea the Bud is talking about girl bars. What happened to the existence of bars for Lesbian women? Did they disappear? Or did they just join forces with the rest of the queer movement?

The L Word as a representation of gay women

The L Word was a TV series which aired in the US from 2004 until 2009. It follows a group of friends, which are all mostly gay women (lesbians and bisexuals) in California. It was groundbreaking at the time. There had never been a show with gay women as the majority of the characters. And, in all honesty, I don’t know if there’s been that many since. It was even more groundbreaking due to its depiction of lesbian sex from the female gaze which, again, wasn’t visible anywhere on any other U.S American TV, nor is it now. And the last groundbreaking fact: it’s written and directed by mostly queer women. 

I wish I’d seen it sooner. I know a lot of friends of mine who came out earlier had watched it a lot earlier than me. However, I do still meet gays who haven’t seen it… Even for those who aren’t queer women, I would still recommend watching it because it was so revolutionary for its time. The plot is also great, but no spoilers, I hate the last season. 

They also released a spin-off version a few years ago Generation Q. This series is also reflective of its time as it is more recent and includes more people within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Some of the main characters include gay men, trans men etc. 

Lesbian bars used to actually exist?

This show was my realisation that lesbian bars used to exist. The spin-off season of the show confirmed my idea that lesbian bars were nearing non-existent. The original series took place mostly at lesbian bars and cafes which apparently were thriving in the 90s. I also read this book Gay Bar which spoke about how lesbian bars used to exist in the U.S. in the 90s and how they disappeared. Gay Bar is almost like a memoir about a man’s going out life in the U.S and also in the U.K (he lived in both). And it discusses his experiences and how queer scenes changed over his lifetime. I read it in November time -ish when I was struggling to read. You know when you finish a page and nothing goes in but it happens over and over so I don’t actually remember the whole book… And now I don’t have brain fog and am actually able to concentrate, I definitely should read it again. 

Anyway, back to the series. I watched it with pure jealousy. Why did these lesbian hot spots and actual bars just dedicated to gay women exist and they don’t exist whilst I’m old enough to actually go? It’s not fair that the only time I could’ve gone to these bars was as a baby. In the spin-off they discuss the disappearance of female gay bars and open a new one in the series. Both Gay Bar and The L Word are based in the U.S. so it is just a reflection of the U.S. However, I have never actually seen a gay bar for women in Europe

So, the Gay Bar book I read for the queer book club in Stockholm. I didn’t finish it on time (stupid brain fog), and didn’t actually end up going. (You definitely are able to still go to book clubs even if you haven’t read the book by the way. It’s just I hadn’t for the last one either and felt guilty. Oops.) My friend did actually go to the book club though, and she said that they discussed how gay bars for gay women disappeared, but some girls from Dublin said how many there were there. So guys, I’m packing my bags. I’m moving to Dublin. Is that why Dublin has a housing crisis? It’s the only place with gay bars for women?

Hands in a heart shape with pride colours - How to Know if You're Gay header Image

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Are gay bars now inclusive?

It’s often believed that gay bars for women and gay bars for men actually merged to create one big inclusive space. For example, like how the spin off of The L Word ended up including a lot more representation of those in the LGBTQIA+ community. However, there are so many gay bars which are so heavily dominated by men, women feel uncomfortable to enter. As much as I love gay men, I really need a space where I am able to feel comfortable. Male dominated spaces are not those. 

The first time I went to friends, a tiny gay bar in Bairro Alto in Lisbon, the place was packed with gay men. And weirdly enough, I’ve never had this anywhere else, but all the people we had to move past to get to the bar stroked my hair. I don’t believe I would’ve had this treatment from a bar full of women. But from gay men, I’m honestly not completely surprised. Gay men are still men and I do believe they still have that cis-man audacity that we women have become well acquainted with.

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My greatest love, gay village

On the other hand, G.A.Y, the gay hotspot in gay village in Manchester was incredibly inclusive, with representation of the entire LGBTQIA+ all dancing to ABBA together in harmony. Gay village in Manchester is in general just a safe space for all LGBTQIA+. It’s one of the places I miss most of anywhere else I’ve lived. Honestly, thinking about it, maybe I should write a whole column about my favourite places in gay village. As an ode to my love, gay village.

The gay scene in Stockholm

As many of you may know, I live in Stockholm at the moment doing my masters. I’ve completed my first year and am just about to start my second. My mission when I came here was to make as many queer friends as possible, and find out where all the queer spots were. To my surprise, there was very very little. 

I had another international friend who went on a hunt with me to find a normal gay bar here. We still haven’t found it. I also find incredibly few queer events, and when they do sporadically have one, they’re not very popular. So what is it? Does Stockholm hate queer people?

My Swedish friend’s theory was that because Sweden has always been so progressive, it hasn’t needed to have a big queer movement because queers have always been accepted into society. Which could be true, because I feel like it is fairly safe to show gay-ness in public such as holding hands with the same sex or kissing the same sex. However, straight bars which exist still don’t feel like a comfortable place to me to show queer love. 

My theory is: Stockholm in particular is a very conservative place. People dress conservatively, as in, they wear very little colour, they dress almost always business casual, and they tend to be very covered up. Which to me doesn’t scream queer. So, if you do wear vibrant colours and show skin, it does feel a little unsafe in the way you get stared at. Swedish culture, again particularly inStockholm, is very conservative and not very outspoken. Whereas queer culture in my eyes really is. 

Stockholm doesn’t generally have very many gay bars nor gay clubs. It’s hard to ask where their lesbian bars are when their normal gay bars don’t even exist. Also, my hopes for the future growth of the queer community isn’t great. The Swedish government is becoming progressively more right-wing, thus queer voices progressively get less say. I went to the Uppsala pride last year, which was mostly talks, and there were many gay activists voicing their worries for the LGBTQIA+ communities in the future of Sweden.

How can we grow our LGBTQIA hotspots?

Simply put, go to them. Go to your local gay bars. Go to your local gay clubs. Join queer societies and groups. Support any queer places and things to do in your town. If there aren’t any, try and create something. There will be queer people in your area, they exist everywhere. We need a community, we need one another.

Also, for straight people: I’m not one of those that believes queer spaces are just for queers. I used to go to gay bars back when I called myself straight. I’m glad the people I met there never kicked me out or told me I didn’t belong there, because I myself didn’t believe I belonged there yet. But it did bring me a lot of comfort. For me, gay bars and clubs were always more fun. There were fewer straight men to hit on me and more chances to just uninterruptedly be with my friends. I believe straight people should also be able to experience gay bars and clubs. The only rule is to be respectful of the people you meet there. 

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